The No. 7 Florida Gators (8-3) will face off against the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (8-2) in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Wednesday 8 PM. The matchup at AT&T Stadium will be the second all-time meeting; The first being when the Gators beat the Sooners for the 2008 national title.
When the dust settled, the Gators would end up taking home their last national title and both storied programs appeared to be on track for many more of such appearances coming into the next decade.Fans of the orange and blue would soon find out that their team would be going a very different direction than the Sooners. While Oklahoma would continue to make major postseason appearances, though never winning the big one, Florida would end up cycling through two head coaches and roughly a dozen quarterbacks. However, with the Gators trending up and up since Mullen took the reins and Lincoln Riley falling short of his playoff-caliber expectations this season, this game could turn into a Cotton Bowl classic.
With Florida coming off back-to-back losses it might appear that the two teams are trending in opposite directions, but that’s not necessarily the case. While the loss to LSU was certainly egregious, Mullen’s team lost all three of its contests by a total of 12 points. Any one of those games could have gone their way and two of the Gators losses were to the No. 1 and No. 5 teams. Also, considering Florida boasts the top-ranked passing offense (in touchdowns and yards per game) and just hung 46 on the Crimson Tide, the major concern for the offense against Oklahoma is the opting-out of pass catchers (Pitts, Toney, and Grimes). With Kyle Trask still set to play, the talented, young receivers will look to make their names known heading into next season.
The real concern for Florida moving forward, of course, is the defense. Regressing dramatically in scoring defense from 2019 (7th) to 2020 (63rd), evaluations will have to be made on how to make sure that performance is not replicated For the most part, though, Florida’s coaching staff will remain largely intact and any potential recruiting victories won’t affect on-field performance for months or even years. Besides potentially getting to see some high-level play from the backup receivers, this game hardly affects the future of the Gators. But, going 8-4 would not be a great look.
The Sooners are missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season, partly thanks to two early-season losses. However, eliminating the losses from the picture, Oklahoma was one of the most consistent teams this season. Everyone knows Lincoln Riley is one of the most respected offensive minds in college football. His problem has always been his defense, which has shown signs of marked improvement (64th in 2019, 30th in 2020) under second year coordinator Alex Grinch. Regardless of the final result, barring a blowout by either squad, most Sooners fans would likely see this game as either a feather in Riley’s cap against the SEC or a bump in the road in a season in which they took their lumps to prepare themselves for a better 2021.
Still, it is a New Year’s Six Bowl – Mullen’s third in as many years with the Gators – against an elite
program. When a team is in this situation, they should always strive and expect to win such matchups regardless of other factors. Either way, this showdown should feature plenty of fireworks with two of the most potent offenses of the year set to square off in Arlington.